Don't ask for pay raises, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella tells women at conference

Microsoft's chief executive officer Satya Nadella suggested on Thursday that women in technology should not ask for raises but have faith in the system. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Microsoft's chief executive officer Satya Nadella suggested on Thursday that women in technology should not ask for raises but have faith in the system. -- PHOTO: AFP 

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp's chief executive officer suggested on Thursday that women in technology should not ask for raises but have faith in the system, bringing a torrent of criticism and causing the executive to backtrack after the statement.

Satya Nadella, who became CEO in February, was asked how women should get ahead in the tech world at a three-day conference in Phoenix, Arizona, intended to celebrate women in computing.

"It's not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along," Nadella said, according to a recording on the website of the event, Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

"Because that's good karma," Nadella continued. "It'll come back because somebody's going to know that's the kind of person that I want to trust."

Nadella's statement did not go down well with an audience well aware of recent research by the American Association of University Women that last year women were paid 78 per cent of what equally qualified men received, although there is some data to suggest the pay gap is less in the tech sector.

Microsoft, like many tech firms, is not a model of diversity. Only 29 per cent of its more than 100,000 employees are female, according to data recently released by the company.

Nadella later tweeted, "Was inarticulate re how women should ask for raise," several hours after his remarks. "Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias."

But Twitter had already rounded on Nadella and his comments became fodder for jokes. "I'll wait for Karma to lower my #xboxlive price too," tweeted Chuck Granade.